Haynes praises effort despite big loss

Scott Lendak

Western Michigan (6-4, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) is quite different from last year’s undefeated regular season team.

This year, the Flashes didn’t have to prepare for Corey Davis, a receiver who led the country in receiving touchdowns last year and is now in the NFL as a member of the Tennessee Titans.

Despite that, the Broncos are still strong offensively. They are 27th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring and averaged 35.3 points per game coming into their home matchup against the Flashes (2-8, 1-5 MAC).

The Broncos high-powered offense got off to a fast start, giving Western Michigan a 7-0 lead early. Then, shortly after, Kent State quarterback George Bollas threw an interception to Robert Spillane taken 35 yards for a touchdown to put the Broncos up 14-0.

With just two wins on the year and down 14-0 in the first quarter, the Flashes had an excuse to take an embarrassing loss with no resistance. They didn’t give up.

“For this team going down 14-0, the team came back and battled back into the game,” coach Paul Haynes said. “We never felt like we were out of the game. Guys were still playing excited.”

The Flashes answered when their special teams gave them a spark. The Broncos returner dropped a punt from Derek Adams and a Kent State player jumped on it.

On the very next play, the Flashes ran a double reverse to running back Justin Rankin. After a series blocks that propelled Rankin inside the 10-yard line, he plowed over a defender for the touchdown. The 21-yard touchdown made it a one-possession game.

After the defense forced the Broncos to punt, the Flashes marched right down the field. On a first and goal play Rankin took a direct snap, and ran to the right side. Two Broncos’ defenders met him, but he managed to reach the ball over the goal line in full extension.

Unfortunately for the Flashes, the Broncos held them scoreless until there was just under two minutes left in the game. Freshman quarterback Dustin Crum entered the game and ran for a 58-yard touchdown weaving in and out, eluding four Western Michigan defenders on his way to the score.

“We knew they were a tough defense coming in,” Haynes said.  “They started to pressure us and played hard.  Once they blitzed we either couldn’t get the ball out or threw interceptions.”

Crum led the team with 80 yards rushing; while Bollas led the Flashes through the air with 102 passing yards. Kent State tallied 281 total yards and scored 20 points, which was their second highest total on the year.

The Flashes fell to the Broncos 48-20.

The defense for the Flashes wasn’t as encouraging as the offense. They surrendered 292 yards on the ground. Their run defense is ranked 117th in the country out of 129 FBS teams.

“There were a lot of guys up front that were banged up,” Haynes said. “We had to give different guys some snaps in unfamiliar positions. But I thought our effort was great all night.”

Western Michigan running back Jarvion Franklin rushed for 191 yards and added a touchdown on the ground. The Flashes also turned the ball over four times, including two returned for touchdowns.

“It’s tough to win football games losing the turnover battle, especially on the road,” Haynes said. “But again, it’s not a lack of effort. There are a lot of times when we’re just pressing a little bit. It’s a learning process for a lot of our young players.”

The Flashes will try to get a victory in their last home game when they take on Central Michigan (6-4, 4-2) on Nov. 14 in Dix Stadium.

Scott Lendak is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]